By Amanda Venereo
Earlier this month, the Spring 2021 Global Leaders were able to sit down with Director Kemba Hendrix and Deputy Director Jeyben Castro from the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), a bipartisan office created during the 116th Congress meant to promote diversity in personnel recruitment and retention on the Hill. Kemba and Jeyben discussed the ODI’s success during the current Congress and called Global Leaders to action to help spread the ODI’s mission.
Kemba and Jeyben shared that ODI has completed 140 placements into Congressional offices since the start of the 117th Congress and that ODI staff attends 3-5 outreach panels every week to make connections with the next generation of Hill staffers. These efforts help recruit candidates to Congressional staff placements and support candidates throughout the application process as well.
The ODI also emphasized the importance of having a community while working in Washington, D.C., and advised the Global Leaders to build connections with people that would allow them to brainstorm ideas, share resources, and grow together professionally. Having this community to rely on, Kemba and Jeyben explained, provides the support necessary to keep staffers on the Hill and prevent them from feeling alone during the start of their Congressional careers.
I asked Jeyben, who leads outreach and engagement for Republican members, how the ODI is working on increasing the presence of Latina Republican staffers on the Hill. He shared that the office is focusing on university outreach and simultaneously working on building a pipeline that would help promote diversity in Congressional offices. Kemba and Jeyben called on the Global Leaders to share the information from this meeting with our universities and local communities to help increase the flow of candidates to ODI and onto the Hill.
We concluded our meeting by stressing the importance of owning one’s narrative and not apologizing for telling the story of who we are. Having had the opportunity to intern for two Latina representatives, I have seen first-hand the importance of owning your narrative and could not agree more with Kemba’s advice. As a young professional aspiring to work within the federal government, Kemba and Jeyben’s efforts reinforced my desire to see more diversity in Congress, and I look forward to helping further the ODI’s mission in any way I can.
It is important to see equal representation of racial, ethnic, and ability groups in Congress. Kemba and Jeyben are leading these efforts in Washington, D.C., but those of us back home need to help them spread the word. By building that pipeline, we can encourage all groups to take part in our nation’s government and strengthen the people’s voice.